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Dexter's Laboratory: Mandark's Lab?
Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: bam!
Developer: Red Lemon Studios
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
The graphics in Dexter's Laboratory: Mandark's Lab? are quite impressive. The characters are good depictions of those seen in the show and the lab itself is vividly detailed and filled with various bubbling beakers and blinking lights. There are some mini-games that could have been a little more detailed, such as the racing one. Also, the game includes original animated cut scenes of the same quality as the cartoon (although the need for compression makes them a little drab). As for the sound, most of the sound effects are appropriate, if not a tad annoying (Dexter's feet make a constant 'click-clack' 'click-clack' sound when he walks around). Most of the music is rather uninspired and there could have been more examples of music from the show. The beat and rhythm for the two Dance Dance Revolution mini-games are appropriately simple considering the young audience of the game.

Considering BAM's target audience of 5-9 year olds, the gameplay is quite simple. At its core, the game is simply a compilation of various mini-games. Sadly, these mini-games are terribly lacking in creativity and fun. The game is separated into 4 stages. In order to complete a stage, you must wander around the level to find and complete the area's 2 mini-games. Also hidden in each level are 4 segments of a blueprint. Finding all 4 pieces makes that stage's mini-games easier by giving Dexter improved versions of his inventions. The mini-games themselves are quite varied including Dance Dance Revolution type games, something reminiscent of Mario Kart, and one based off one my favorite episodes which includes Dexter in a dodge ball shooting mech (sadly, it's not as much fun as it sounds).

I completed the game in less than 2 1/2 hours never losing a mini-game once; that includes actually looking around and finding all the blue prints. Put simply, the game is childishly easy, which is fine considering the game was probably made for children. As a bonus however, it does include a 'challenge' mode, in which you can play the mini-games at higher difficulty settings to unlock various pieces of production art to look at. There is also a 2-player mode which lets you play the mini-games with...two people.

Game Mechanics:
Outside of the mini-games, gameplay consists of six buttons, four to move Dexter, one to 'talk' and start the mini-games, and another to look through special goggles in order to see the hidden blue print pieces. Inside the various mini-games, the mechanics can change drastically. In the DDR-type games, it's simply a matter of pressing the buttons that show up on the screen. The racing game takes on a simplified version of Mario Kart's controls, removing the brakes and power slide buttons. Probably the simplest game consists simply of running after a 'computer' bug and smacking it with a fly swatter using the R1 button.

Starting with the animated intro straight out of the cartoon, Dexter's Laboratory: Mandark's Lab? sets up to disappoint. With very attractive visuals and a few catchy themes, it starts out looking like it may be quite an entertaining ride, until you realize that the game consists of nothing more than uninspired mini-games. While it's obvious the focus of this game is an audience of very young children, I don't think it was necessary to dumb down the gameplay quite THIS much. I get the feeling Red-Lemon Studios used a young target audience as an excuse for making a game that I've quite simply found lacking.

-Alucard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Stephen Triche

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